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Shut up and say 'Cheese'

By Zhang Hui (Global Times)

09:00, March 13, 2013

(file photo)

After a month of nagging from my mom, I finally gave in and took my wedding photos.

Not the photos of the actual ceremony, but the bridal photos that are taken up to half a year before the wedding.

I don't know when or why Chinese couples decided they had to take such photos, but I do remember seeing them since I was a kid. Everyone would compliment the photos, even though the couple in them was totally unrecognizable.

It's not that photos of the wedding ceremony are not cherished, but looking at pre-wedding photos and praising them is an important part of Chinese wedding culture. Sometimes, the family will receive undisguised contempt from their guests if they don't show these photos at the wedding party.

So my mom, who is as traditional as most Chinese parents, could not bear my delaying tactics any longer. Three months before my wedding, she called me almost every night asking me to find a professional wedding photo studio, and even gave my phone number to some studios in Beijing because I had not given her a satisfactory answer.

There are probably hundreds of these studios in every Chinese city, offering hundreds of costumes in different styles ranging from traditional imperial clothing to fashionable Western suits. Instead of listening to my mom and finding a famous studio, I took the photos in a small studio with only three photographers last week, which still set me back 6,000 yuan ($965) for a one-day shoot. Taking a full collection of wedding photos normally requires both indoor and outdoor scenes, and squeezing it into one day meant we had to get up at 6 am on a Saturday.

Like every other wedding photo studio, most of the costumes had probably been rented out millions of times but never washed. I had no choice but to select six costumes with the least stains and place my faith in post-production.

After applying a heavy layer of makeup, our photographer asked my husband and me to strike all kinds of unnatural hugging and kissing poses. In some photos, my husband had to tiptoe so I could lay my head on his shoulder, which upset him. We had a fight when he said he hated fake smiles, but he knew we had to do exactly that to satisfy our families.

We were then taken to a wild park near the airport to shoot some outdoor scenes. Undeniably, the pictures of us kissing near a lake glistening in the sunset were rather vivid, even though the cold wind nearly froze us to death.

We finished shooting at 7 pm, but that wasn't the end of it. My photos will then go through a selecting, editing, and design process lasting one and a half months before being made into albums. My relatives and friends will look at them and compliment them on my wedding day, after which no one will bother looking at them again.

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